"All right, so just as the gear was changing, I quit my job as a leatherworker. Since I had been rehabilitated, I was eager to get back to my original profession." The orc held up a finger to stave off any protest from her companion. "Yes, yes, I know this has absolutely nothing to do with gathering."
The tauren obediently closed his mouth. The orc quirked an eyebrow at him and took a sip of her drink before continuing.
"The Horde assault on Naxxramas had just begun. I applied to rejoin my old battalion, and as soon as they proved I could swing an axe and take a hit, they sent me off to the front lines. I was expecting complete madness, and I got it. My battalion was commanded by a troll who had already been into Naxxramas several times. He led us against the patchwork creatures in the Construct Quarter, and it was horrible."
The orc paused to drink and swallow. She used the condensation from her glass to draw a tiny picture on the bar, then smeared it out.
"There were undead...scientists in that quarter. They scavenged body parts to create bodies for the souls they had harvested. There were big constructs, taller than three orcs stacked on each others shoulders, but they were big and slow and hard to create. The little ghouls, however..." she scrubbed a hand across her head. "Sometimes patrols would go missing. Or we would lose a comrade in a skirmish. If we - if you didn't recover the body, the scientists would. And then they could use it for parts. So we had to collect the dead, even the ghouls' bodies, and burn them. Otherwise, you'd find yourself fighting a familiar face attached to a mishmash of decaying limbs. The fresher the construct, the more familiar they sounded."
The tauren shifted uncomfortably and licked his lips. The fur on the back of his neck was standing on end.
Lost in her own recollection, the orc didn't notice. "But the worst part was the sound. The big constructs, you see, were made out of regular bodies. They just took more parts to make. And some of the bodies were still alive and aware when they were sewn in. They knew what was happening. So they screamed. Whatever magic kept them alive kept them from needing food or sleep. They didn't have to do anything but scream or cry or beg for death. And we could always hear their voices echoing in the halls."
Her eyes lost focus and her voice dropped. Now the story was mostly for herself. "Our captain had been there a long time. He hadn't gotten a break from the voices. So one night, when I was on watch duty, he snapped. Started screaming about how he wouldn't let us fall prey to the monsters. He grabbed his axe and set upon the sleeping soldiers. Everyone woke up. The guards all ran, but I got there first. I stopped him."
She rubbed the back of her hand across her dry lips. "There were multiple witnesses, so I was convicted of no crime. They understood; there had been similar incidents. I was honorably discharged and received valor commendations." The orc drew the chain around her neck out of her shirt, revealing a signet ring and two thick medals. "For being wounded in combat," she indicated one medal, "for valor," the other medal, "and for loyal service to the Horde," the ring. The tauren admired each in turn.
Suddenly the orc laughed, breaking the oppressive mood. "I apologize for telling you all that. I'm afraid I'm a maudlin drinking partner."
"Not at all," the tauren protested. "Never in all my days have I seen anything like that."
"But, you're still wondering about the point of the story, aren't you?" He tried too hard to appear nonchalant and gave his curiosity away. "Don't worry; this is the good part. Since I had left the military, I returned to leatherworking. The top-end gear was being crafted to specifically combat the creatures in Naxxramas, and the crafters wanted leather from the source! I still had some interest in seeing everything in that hellhole dead, so I volunteered to lead a team of gatherers. They were happy to have a veteran at the head. I got clearance from the Horde War Generals to harvest leather from the creatures in the Arachnid Quarter. I didn't want to risk the Construct Quarter again. We followed behind and orc company, sometimes harvesting leather from their kills, sometimes helping in the battle. The leatherworkers with me were very skilled, and our only casualties were unavoidable. Our campaign lasted nearly a month before we had scared up enough spiders to meet our leather quota, and then we returned to Orgrimmar to deliver, collect our pay,and wait for our next turn in the rotation. My old master said he was glad to have me back in his shop, and I think I was, too."
The tauren grunted. "Now that was a satisfying story."